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Press Release

Westerman Visits NYC Migrant Processing Center, Condemns Misuse of National Park Land

NEW YORK, N.Y. , September 18, 2023 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)
  • OI Subcommittee

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) conducted oversight on the migrant crisis currently happening on and around New York City (NYC) public lands. 

"Even our national parks, often referred to as America's best idea, are being compromised by an open border policy, one of the Biden administration's worst ideas," Westerman said. "President Biden's open border is a crisis for Americans across the country, and it's deeply troubling to learn that New York City is being aided by the Biden administration to house these illegal migrants on national park lands, abandoning the duty of the Park Service to be good stewards and causing unfathomable destruction to these historic sites, particularly in a city of 8.5 million people where public green spaces like these often provide the only available opportunity for fresh air and recreation. This morning, when we tried to visit the facility where migrants are currently housed, city officials denied us entry despite our requesting a tour well in advance. Yet when Democrat members visited the same facility three days ago, they were welcomed with open arms. The hypocrisy here is staggering - clearly the Biden administration would rather put a positive spin on their crisis than engage in any meaningful oversight. What we saw today put into perspective just how horrible the real-world impacts of President Biden’s failed border policies, made even worse by a decades-long mess in the making that NYC has created with progressive policies. It's time to take steps now to secure our border, and it's time for President Biden to solve his own problems without placing the burden on the National Park Service and American families.

"Joe Biden’s reckless open border policies are destroying American cities from Phoenix, Arizona to New York City," Gosar said. "Every city in America has become a border city. Drugs and criminals, including hundreds of terrorists, are pouring into our backyards. Our schools and hospitals are overrun with illegals. Police forces are overwhelmed as progressive mayors slash their budgets. Our streets are not safe. Fentanyl is rampant. Police officers are being assaulted. Cartels are thriving. Rather than prosecute these criminals and deport them, sanctuary cities like New York are partnering with the Biden administration to encamp thousands of illegal aliens at National Park properties. These federal properties exist for the public as recreational areas for hiking, camping and picnics not to serve as a four-star hotel for lawbreakers to live for free on the taxpayers’ dime."

"Turning our federal parks into encampments for unvetted migrants from all over the world is unfair to surrounding communities and the taxpayers being forced to foot the bill," Malliotakis said. "I appreciate Chairman Westerman coming to New York City to meet a bipartisan group of elected officials from the city, state and federal level as we work to use every legal and legislative angle at our disposal to stop the Biden, Hochul and Adams Administrations from taking open spaces from our citizens."


Since President Joe Biden took office, there have been more than 5.8 million illegal crossings of the southern border of the United States. Many of these immigrants travel to self-identified "sanctuary cities" across the country, including NYC.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in NYC since the spring of 2022. NYC has an additional layer of complexity, as they have a "right to shelter" law, which requires all persons, regardless of their legal status, to be provided with a shelter and food, paid for by the city. NYC Mayor Eric Adams recently made national news by stating that the Biden administration's current immigration policies will "destroy the City."

The Republican members first visited the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, a facility where hundreds of migrants are currently being processed, in order to learn about the housing problems facing a city that's already at max capacity. The facility has become so overcrowded that many migrants have resorted to sleeping on the street. Despite requesting access days in advance, the members of Congress were denied entry and told no one was allowed inside, even though a Democrat delegation was given a full tour on Friday, Sept. 15. 

As a larger part of the effort to house illegal migrants, the state of New York and NYC have asked the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to establish "temporary" housing for more than 2,000 migrants at Gateway National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System. The Republican members visited this proposed site and saw firsthand that it's an incredible resource for NYC residents and visitors, providing kayaking, fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities in the middle of an urban area. Turning the Gateway National Recreation Area into a migrant camp would immediately cut off the access NYC residents have enjoyed for years.

This visit comes just days after Westerman led a letter to DOI Secretary Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Charles Sams, rebuking the Biden administration's proposed plan to shift the border crisis burden onto America's federal lands. Learn more here

Westerman led a congressional forum in 2021 on the environmental impacts of illegal immigration on the federal lands along the southern border, and also led a delegation of members to Texas later that year on this same issue. He has continued to press the Biden administration on the ways illegal immigration pollutes and destroys federal lands, with oversight letters such as the one to Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to take action to protect sensitive habitats on the border.